A Cozy Holiday Giveaway From Pure Romance

After writing this post about my impending retirement from sex blogging, I’ve more or less hung up my adult product reviewer hat. So, when Pure Romance contacted me about reviewing their new holiday line, I was hesitant. Would the company that’s known for its at home sex toy parties (I’ve been to a few in my day) have anything suitable for my new blog direction? It turns out that yes, yes, yes they do!

As I’ve mentioned before, I love a great pair of pajamas (so much so, that my family had to stage a pajamavention at one point). Well, as it turns out, Pure Romance carries some of the comfiest ones I’ve ever had the pleasure of working sleeping in (freelancer win!) They also have a bunch of body products that they sent me to try….and, because there are all about spreading the wealth, I also have a Pure Romance holiday gift set to giveaway to a reader. Here’s the skinny…

Behold the most comfiest pajamas known to humankind! The Vega V-neck Chemise and Leto Lounge Pants are both made with bamboo fibers to feel as soft as silk while naturally adapting to your body’s temperature and wicking away moisture. I know I’ll definitely be wearing the Leto Pants to work and write lounge around the house. Also, is it just me or does the Vega V-neck Chemise look cute enough to wear outside of the bedroom? I’m kind of tempted to wear it as a beach dress next time I travel somewhere warm.

The folks at Pure Romance also included some Flirt Conditioning Shave Cream and Coco Glow Sunless Tanner, which to be honest I haven’t had a chance to try yet.

They also included some Euforia Shea Butter, which judging by the first application is something I’m going to be using on my chronically dry legs all winter.

If you’d like to win your very own Pure Romance holiday gift, simply leave a comment on this post.

An extra entry will be given if you also follow me on Instagram. If you follow me on the ‘Gram, make sure you mention your handle in the comment so I know who you are.

I’ll choose a winner Wednesday, December 19th, 2018.

Don’t want to wait to see if you win? Enjoy a 10% discount on all purchases, excluding tax and shipping, when you use the exclusive promotion code SkinnyDip10. To redeem, just enter it in the COUPON CODE box and hit “APPLY” and the discount will be shown.

Good luck & happy holidays! xx

Your Body at 35: a Brief History

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A day before you turn 30, you fly down to Miami Beach to celebrate your birthday. You spend your first afternoon frolicking on the beach and taking photos with your then-boyfriend.  The result is a series of photos that feature you standing on the beach in a hot pink bikini. Even five years later, you still love these photos. Not just because they commemorate a really great birthday weekend, but because they remind you of how you felt in that moment: free. You weren’t thinking about your body or what it looked like, you just put on your pink bikini and posed.

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This “laissez faire” attitude is what defines the relationship you have with your body during your first 30 years on the planet. Sure, you still remember the name-calling from grade school (skinny. bone rack. shrimp. skeleton) but in general, you don’t spend much time thinking about how your body should or shouldn’t look. You play sports. You dance. When you’re 18, you move to Toronto: a city where you’re always on the go and you make friends with women from diverse cultural backgrounds who also don’t think about their bodies. This helps.

But, between the ages of 30 and 33, things change. You end a long term relationship  and move across the country to live in your sleepy hometown on the West Coast. As your life evolves, so does the relationship you have with your body. Without the stress of the city, your body “grows to fit it’s new tank” and goes through what feels like a second puberty. Your rib cage expands and your hips widen. Your bust increases, you go up 2 bra sizes and your boobs become a force to be reckoned with. You go from 105lbs to 125lbs in just over a year. You walk less and drive more. Your body feels very different.

On one hand, you like this new you. You finally have what one would call “curves.” You feel solid; grounded. You like the way your body takes up more room in the world. Friends, family and lovers call you names that you aren’t used to hearing (curvy. thick. full figured. healthier looking.) Yet, it’s hard to get used to these changes. When you grab the fleshy mass around your waist, it feels alien – like it belongs on another body altogether. That’s when it bubbles to the surface for the first time and doesn’t let go: hate. 

You don’t hate your body. You hate the fact that you’re now spending time thinking about it, when you never did before. This new concern over your body feels not only like a betrayal to yourself, but to women in general.

You never used to feel this way. When you were a kid you danced ballet, swam and ran. You were taught to value your body not for how it looked, but for what it could do. How high it could jump. How fast it could move. As a thirty-something struggling with their body image for the first time, you long to go back to these carefree days.

So, you make some drastic changes. You remove the full length mirror from your bedroom. You start to work out harder than you have in years. You learn to kick and punch. You decide that if a piece of clothing requires Spanx, it’s not worth it. You start to feel really good. Scratch that – you feel strong.

Over the course of these three to four years,  the pop culture definition of what’s attractive also changes. Enter dawn of the Instagram/fitness model; with her rippled six pack and tiny bikini. She’s the latest version of unattainable beauty and she’s everywhere, touting the virtues of the paleo diet and squats. So. Many. Squats. After all, pop culture’s message is clear: it’s not enough to be healthy and fit – you also have to have an ass like a Kardashian.

You find yourself on a date with a guy who tells you that he’s attracted to fitness models and is “really getting into girls with big butts lately.” When he tells you that he encouraged his last girlfriend to do more squats (even going so far as to hire her a personal trainer because as put it, “a curvy girl at 26 is a fat girl at 30”) you want to throw up. It’s clear this guy is an asshole, but the experience still rattles you.

In a moment of insecurity you start to wonder not whether you’re fit (you are) but whether you’re fit enough. While ghostwriting articles for companies in the sex industry you stumble across the glossy, Playboy-esque photos on sites like Perth escorts and Brisbane escorts and wonder, “is this what men really want?”

You get angry when you realize that we allow so much of how we feel about our own bodies to be dictated by someone else. There will always be someone or something trying to make you feel less than, so you need to find a way to tune it out.

The next day at the gym, you imagine your date’s face as you pummel the punching bag and give it multiple roundhouse kicks.

You routinely tell yourself: I am beautiful. I am enough. I am strong. My body is a tool to do cool things.

Your body changes again. It doesn’t get smaller, but it gets more muscular. You kick and punch more things. A woman stops you on the street and asks you if you’re that “lady marathon runner that was featured on the news.” You laugh because you haven’t ran in years and tell her, “it must just be the pink shoes.”

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People have new adjectives to describe you (fit. muscular. athletic.) but your proudest moment comes when you overhear your Mom on the phone with your Grandma. “Simone has been going to this fitness class and now she’s freakishly strong. She helped me lift all these heavy boxes in the garage.” 

It feels good to know that your body can do cool stuff. 

You decide to stop worrying altogether about “how to get the perfect bikini body” and instead, buy a sexy one piece swimsuit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Shortly after your 35th birthday, you take this photo in Palm Springs.

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You make a promise to try and get back to a place where you don’t spend uneccessary time thinking about your body (unless it’s to celebrate it.) You know that it’s not going to be as easy as turning off a switch, but you’re committed to trying to find your way back.

You decide that you’re grateful for the struggle. It reminds you to enjoy the present moment. Because, there will always be a time in your life that you thought you looked better or worse than you do now. You can’t control the passing of time or what other people think, but you can choose to live your best possible life. Right now. Thick thighs and all.

How to Recharge & Stay Inspired When You’re Really Busy

how to recharge when you're busy

A few years ago, everything in my life felt out of balance. I was anxious and constantly felt overwhelmed. When I was going through this, I made a list of things that I could do to make myself feel better. I’ve learned that part of living well with an anxiety disorder, means having “touchstones” I can draw on whenever I need to re-group. In fact, it’s crucial. So, I thought it might be interesting to not only share some of the (fun) ways I manage my anxiety, but also some of the stuff I love to do when I’m not here writing about dating, sexy lingerie and vibrators.

Now, here’s the thing – I wrote a version of this post a long time ago and it’s been sitting around in my drafts for…I don’t know, FOREVER. Why you ask? Because life has actually been really great lately. The Secret Agent and I have been having tons of great adventures: we’ve gone to Vancouver multiple times together, seen Erykah Badu in concert (my 3rd time seeing her!), plus been to a handful of other amazing shows and events (Zaki Ibrahim, Ester Rada, Talib Kweli!) We’ve been having a great time. Work has also been going well and am in the midst of working with a lovely editor to finish up the next stage of my book project.

However, the thing about having anxiety is that you can still have off days even when life is good. Anxiety is a bully like that. Although medication has helped me so, so, much, sometimes my brain chemistry can make it feel like life is either moving too fast or like it’s a bit too slow and foggy. These feelings are much more subtle than they used to be, but they are still there. Also, writing all day everyday can sometimes make you feel burnt-out. When these changes in mood happen, I don’t feel like the best version of myself.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past few months is that in order for me to feel my best, do my best possible work and be a good partner to The Secret Agent, I need to look after myself and make sure I take time to practice these good habits or touchstones – even when life is going swimmingly.

So, without further adieu, here are a few of the things I do to keep my anxiety in check and have fun in the process! (Thanks to Joe the Intern and his friends for helping me with the visuals…) Whether I’ve been travelling a lot or just need a mid-week re-boot, these are some of my favourite personal rituals.

Feeling overwhelmed, burn-out or creatively uninspired? Here are a few things to try

Balance 1

I always joke that I consume books like most people consume food – and it’s almost true! I read a lot and always aim to read at least 3-4 books a month in hopes of staying on top of my perpetually long “to be read list” on Goodreads. Reading is not only highly enjoyable, it’s a great way for me to relax my mind when things start to feel “busy” in there (if you can relate to my stories about anxiety, you know what I’m talking about.) I like to make time to read for at least an hour before bed and an hour or two during Saturday mornings (I regularly document my coffee & reading adventures here.) When I read a lot, I also write better – so, there’s that.

Some of my favourite reads from 2015 so far include Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’d also recommend anything by Junot Diaz, Cheryl Strayed, Cristina Henriquez and any of the female friendly reads from this or this list. 

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One of the things that brought the Secret Agent and I together was our mutual love of 90’s hip hop and R&B – among other genres. I love that I can play him a song I really love & there’s a very good chance that he’ll enjoy it too.

One of my favourite things to do when I’m having writer’s block is to explore new music. Although I’m always on the look out for new music to fall in love with, if my boyfriend mentions that he’s heard something on Soulbounce that I haven’t yet, I know that life has been busy & I need to spend some time with my headphones exploring some new sounds. Listening to music is one of my favourite ways to get energized and inspired. 

(FYI, in a few days I’ll be losing my music festival virginity at Squamish Fest, so I’ve been preoccupied sonically researching all the acts we’ll see like Sam Smith, Drake & Alabama Shakes (eeee!))

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Green smoothies made with Vega One mix have been my saving grace over the past year. With the exception of weekends that I usually spend at The Secret Agent’s, I drink one each and every morning – even while travelling. The older I get, the more important it becomes for me to pay attention to what I put in my body. Having a protein rich green smoothie everyday means I eliminate the “ugh, what should I eat for breakfast?” question, therefore creating more time and energy in my day for other pursuits, like writing and client work.

Regardless of what else is going on during the rest of the day, my green smoothie habit ensures that I get more than enough servings of veggies & fruits first thing in the am. Also, green smoothies are delicious and make me feel awesome. Joe the Intern agrees.

balance 3

When I sat down to write down this list I asked myself, “what makes me feel most like myself?” One of the first things that popped into my mind was moving my body. I spent most of my childhood to young adulthood dancing ballet. I’ve since learned that whether I’m dancing, taking a barre class or punching & kicking the crap out of a bag at the gym, I feel my best when I’m getting sweaty & moving my body. Doing exactly that on a regular basis is what keeps me sane & feeling good. A workout has always made me feel better, not worse.

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In the past, one of my go-to relaxation tools was to watch a couple (or many) episodes of a favourite TV show. While I still love Netflix (the latest season of Orange is the New Black made me feel all the things & I’m wholeheartedly in love with BoJack Horseman) ever since the release of Serial, I’ve become completely obsessed with podcasts and have started listening to several on a regular basis (most of which are about social justice issues.)

I’m of the belief that we’ve become so programmed to communicate & “connect” – especially online – that many of us don’t slow down long enough to really listen to each other or ourselves. I love podcasts because they force you to listen and focus, without looking at a screen. As I discovered from my experience listening to Serial, there’s something really intimate and comforting about hearing someone’s  voice tell you a story – even if what they are talking about is a murder case. Plus, learning about something new about the world around you is a great way to get out of your own head (this is one reason I also really love to watch documentaries!)

balance 6

I used to scoff at the term “self-care” and accompanying articles that suggested that I do things like “take a bubble bath” or “paint my nails.” More often than not, I couldn’t relate. Hot baths usually make me feel lightheaded and painting my nails is futile endeavour (the chipping frustrates me too much to make it worthwhile.) In the inaugural words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, ain’t nobody got time for that. 

However, self-care is really important. Looking over the above mentioned actions, they all fall under the banner of self-care because they are all things that make me feel good. With that said, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel better when I take the time to give myself a pedicure and stick to my regular at-home laser hair removal sessions (more on that later.) So, whether it’s giving your hair a new paint job (above) or treating yourself to a much needed pedicure, I’ve learned it’s important to take care of the external as well as the internal.

Balance 4

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. When people ask me about how I ward off creative burn-out, I simply tell them, “naps.” Whenever my mind starts to feel foggy or like I can’t concentrate, I lay down for an hour and sleep it off. I tell myself that when I get up in 60 minutes, things will feel better and I will keep working. I liken the mind to a computer: sometimes you need to shut down and reboot. And you know what? It works.

So, whether you’re just really busy, have anxiety or both, these are a few rituals that I embrace to re-balance and feel good. However, this is by all means not an absolute list. Everyone is different and what works for one person, might not work for another.

Do you have any touchstones or personal rituals that you practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

January Came In Like a Wrecking Ball

I think Joe the Intern‘s Miley inspired New Year’s greeting was somehow prophetic because January has been one crazy month. My expectation that January was going to be a mellow four weeks of work, writing & going to the gym was totally smashed when it unexpectedly turned into a month of crazy work schedules, Vegas adventures and a lingering post-Vegas cold that just won’t quit. So, I have some catching up to do!

If you were reading this blog last year, you might remember that I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council. In preparation for 2013, I let go of 50 things and I chose a theme for year: “Shine.” I wanted 2013 to be a year of to be a year full of healthy living, travel, mindfulness, creativity and sparkle, so I could fall deeper in love with my life. I decided that to make this happen I’d adopt the personal mantra of “Do more of what makes you awesome.”

When I look back at 2013 I am really proud of how everything turned out and do feel like I embraced my themed in all it’s shiny glory. I made health & fitness a much bigger priority in my life, started taking Barre classes again, joined a challenging new fitness program and made some helpful tweaks to my diet. I really grew my freelancing business a lot in 2013, worked with some fantastic companies and after a lot of blood, sweat & tears landed my dream gig as a Nationally syndicated relationship columnist. I learned that when I exercise my willpower I can do anything I put my mind to, which has given me a new sense of confidence that I didn’t have a year ago.

I have some really big goals for 2014. I want to finish a big (still kind of secretive) writing project I started before Christmas, make a habit of being fiscally responsible & saving money, travel as much as possible & revitalize my dating/sex life. I want to carry a lot of the good things from 2013 into the New Year, but go bigger. I remember reading a quote a long time on Nicole‘s blog that went something like this:

What would you do if you were no longer holding yourself back?”

This question has been dancing around my head for the past few months, so I used it as inspiration for my 2014 goals. I’ve decided that this year’s theme will be “GO. ALL. IN” – with my work, but also with my heart. No more sitting on the sidelines or holding myself back!

To make things happen, I’ve decided that my top 5 priorities or “ways of being” for 2014 are as follows:

1) Be Focused and Consistent – Make consistent forward progress on my big, kind of scary (but exciting) writing project. Get things done. Grow my business. Eat well and stay active. Keeping in mind that consistency & getting shit done, is better than perfection.

2) Be Healthy – Continue with the healthy eating and exercise habits I started in 2013. Challenge myself at the gym and push my body beyond it’s comfort zone. Practice self compassion and love my body no matter what (i.e. whether I have a six pack or not.)

3) Be Brave – Say “F*ck the Fear” and have the courage to put myself & my story out there. Write fearlessly. Love, let my guard down, and give myself permission to not hold myself back. Allow myself to be vulnerable.

4) Be Abundant – Save for my future by putting a set $ in savings every month. Be intentional with my purchases. Surpass my current monthly income. Move into my own apartment.

5) Be a Sexy Adventurer – Get my drivers license (yes, I am 33 and don’t drive. I blame it on the 12 years I lived in Toronto where I didn’t need a car.) Travel as much as possible. Take that trip to California. Go to the East Coast to visit friends. Attend Catalyst Con. Take a trip overseas. Embrace new experiences. Take charge of my dating & sex life. Find a meaningful connection with someone.

So, there you have it. In 2014 I want to feel focused, healthy, brave, abundant and sexy. I’ve learned that creating a roadmap for how I want to feel for the year is so much more productive than writing down a laundry list of “resolutions” that I want to accomplish. What do you guys think?

What’s your theme for 2014?  

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